Wednesday, July 31, 2013

LIVE BY NIGHT by Dennis Lehane

This is not my favorite Dennis Lehane novel.  I prefer a little more suspense and a little less gangster-double-crossing.  That said, I did enjoy the book, just not as much as Shutter Island or Mystic River.  Joe Coughlin is the handsome, wayward son of a powerful but corrupt policeman in Boston during Prohibition.  Joe serves time after holding up a card game, in which the players are even bigger crooks than he is.  While in prison he becomes the protégé of Maso Pescatore, who later hires Joe to run his rum distribution operation in Tampa, after Joe completes his prison term.  Joe builds an empire in Tampa and falls in love with a Cuban woman named Graciela, but he's constantly looking over his shoulder.  There are gun battles and heists and whatnot, but I always figured that Joe was wily enough to come out on top, one way or another.  We have to root for Joe, because he has a higher code of ethics, such as it is, than his fellow mobsters, and Joe's refusal to eliminate everyone who stands in his way leads Maso to believe that he's too soft.  Plus, Maso has a son, Digger, that he wants to put in charge of the now-thriving Tampa operation, but Digger is not the sharpest knife in the drawer and inspires neither loyalty nor respect.   There are several side plots:  Joe's first love may or may not have died in a car crash; a fervently religious young woman attempts to thwart Joe's plan to branch into casinos; and Graciela may or may not still be in love with her husband in Cuba.  There was nothing here, though, that kept me on the edge of my seat.

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